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Friday, November 27, 2009

Coastal security failed: Has it been fixed?

Bangalore: A year ago, 10 terrorists took advantage of our lax coastal security and entered the city. A year later not much has changed on the coastal front.Though steps were taken in the past one year to protect the shores, the coastal authorities still have a long way to go to ensure a completely secure coastline.

In fact, the loopholes were cited almost 16 years ago when the RDX used in the serial bomb blasts in 1993 came through the sea route. Lack of coordination has been a big problem. While the navy was in-charge of security in the high seas, the coast guard looked after the mid-sea area -- five nautical miles off the coast -- and the local police manned the shore. All the three agencies functioned independently.

The coastal police, which became functional after the 26/11 attack, got special speedboats equipped with the latest technology and weapons only two months ago. The bulletproof speedboats were bought at Rs5 crore to patrol the 124-km Mumbai coastline. But experts feel at least 50 such boats are needed. Recently, the coastal police got eight sea legs - amphibious speedboats.

Also, the coastal police don't have chowkies along the coast. The central government gave a directive for setting up six police chowkies four years ago but the police have got only three plots till now and construction is yet to begin.

Given the vulnerability of the sea borders - the Arabian Sea on the west, the Indian Ocean on the south and the Bay of Bengal in the east - multiple security agencies, including the Mumbai police, have been acquiring or deploying additional boats to keep tabs on activities in the sea.

Earlier this month, Admiral Nirmal Verma conducted a detailed review of the Western Naval Command in Mumbai to check its operational preparedness.

The Indian Navy has drawn up major plans to acquire five midget submarines - weighing around 150 tonnes - for its Marine Commandos (Marcos). It will help in underwater surveillance missions and covert operations in the high seas. Marcos played an instrumental role in eliminating the terrorists during the three-day siege last year.

"The coast guard have a bigger role after the terror attack," defence minister AK Antony recently said. "Work is under way to put in place a chain of 46 coastal radars spanning nine coastal stations." For strategic reasons, the current emphasis is on strengthening the security on the western coast. The Maharashtra government plans to spend Rs6.30 billion on modernising its force; this will mean an upgraded anti-terrorism squad, improved and better weapons, and state-of-the-art control rooms.
 

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